Dr Younis Shaikh - Released after 3 years under arrest,
23 January 2004: Messsage from Roy Saich:
The Daily Times of Pakistan reports:-
2 under sentence of death for blasphemy
Dr Younis Shaikh, who was accused of blasphemy and arrested in October 2000,
has mercifully been released. He was sentenced to death by the additional
district and sessions court Islamabad on August 18, 2001 and moved to the
Lahore High Court a few days later. But after having been extricated from a legal
system that nets people through extremist decrees like the Blasphemy Law, he
could not live in Pakistan for fear of his life. The release has also
brought exile for Dr Shaikh, who has had to leave Pakistan for the safety
and tolerance of an alien country and society. The activists who worked so
hard since Dr Shaikh’s arrest to secure his freedom have every right to
celebrate their hard-won victory.
The case of Dr Shaikh has been the worst case of the use of
Religious Law to suppress free thought. There are many Blasphemy prosecutions
brought every year, often resulting in prison sentences.
Before the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001 the main news-story from Pakistan
that was of concern for secularists was the death sentence for blasphemy passed on
Dr Yunis Shaikh. Demonstrations were held in London on 10th September 2001, but since
then other events have swept his case from the news. It is hoped that the sentence will
be overruled by a higher court, but a lot of course may now depend on other developments
The following is from an e-mail by Roy Saich issued on 20 October 2000:
Humanist Under Threat of Death for 'Blasphemy' Urgent Appeal
An urgent appeal for help from the International Humanist and Ethical Union has been
made on behalf of Dr. Shaikh in Pakistan. On 4 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was arrested by
the Islamabad police and booked under Section 295-C (Blasphemy) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
On 19 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was presented before the court, but he had no lawyer.
Blasphemy in Pakistan is an offence punishable mandatorily by death, but Section 295-C
does not even precisely define the crime it is meant to punish.
The following is part of an e-mail from Babu Gogineni of IHEU dated 31 August 2001:
Things are moving fast in the campaign for the liberation of Dr. Shaikh, sentenced to
death in Pakistan for blasphemy, after a defective, and partly in-camera trial where the
judge was constantly intimidated by a mob of violent fundamentalist clergy.
Two appeals have been filed on Dr. Shaikh’s behalf, one by the family and another by
Human Rights activists. Now an inmate of the terrible death cell, Dr. Shaikh is not even
allowed to carry a pen with him, and those who do not belong to his immediate family
cannot visit him anymore. Thankfully, Abid Hasan Manto, Pakistan’s well-known
and respected civil libertarian lawyer will argue Dr. Shaikh’s case without charging fees.
A team of dedicated Human Rights activists are working hard to provide support for
Dr. Shaikh in Pakistan, risking themselves in the process. The influential Friday Times
of Islamabad has carried an extensive report on the case. On the IHEU’s website you will
find statements from liberal Pakistani Muslims protesting the sentence. The campaign in
Pakistan too has started. Our colleagues in Pakistan need help and support, and this can
only be done by intensifying our efforts internationally. There are hundreds who are
victims of these laws and we need to help.
Have you written to your senator? Did you contact your Prime Minister? Will you remind
them of the urgency of the matter? If your organisation has Honorary Associates or a well
known President, will you ask them to issue a statement asking for the liberation of
Dr. Shaikh and the repeal of Blasphemy laws in Pakistan (which victimise all religious
minorities, specially Christians and Ahmadiyas), as well as in other countries?
A sample of the press notices, statements and editorial comments from well known
personalities can be found on the IHEU website. Always copy your communications to
email@example.com which is the
central coordination point for the international campaign.